P&I Clubs can play a central role in casualty communications

In most cases, P&I Clubs play a central role in the management of and response to a shipping casualty. The clubs’ long-standing relationships with their members are often critical when it comes to making sure the right decisions are made at the right time in an emergency.

As crisis communicators, Navigate Response has a direct interest in how an owner with a vessel in trouble communicates with its insurers and the outside world in general.

The clubs, together with their appointed lawyers, often take a proactive role in ensuring communication is both co-ordinated and timely.

As consultants we are often appointed by owners and managers who have first taken advice from their club on the need for professional media handling and communications.

It is the club and its lawyers who have that 360-degree knowledge of a casualty and are therefore in the best position to assist with media response. This can include everything from providing media managers with updated information about the casualty to assisting with formulating statements and other kinds of communication.

Our experience shows that the more the club recognises the role of communications and the more the parties work together, the better the outcome is for the owners in the long run.

As for the International Group (IG) of clubs (the group of leading international protection and indemnity mutual insurers), enormous progress has been made over the past two decades in terms of communications.

It’s a far cry from the situation in the 1990s when despite the existence of OPA 90 and the demands that legislation placed on owners, there was still a culture of non-communication, even secrecy among some clubs. The world has moved on since then, and the fact that most clubs today go on the front foot in terms of media communication when an owner has a problem speaks volumes for the change in mindset.

It was not so long ago that reporters seeking information about an accident were stonewalled by the clubs.

The change is down to the determined efforts of a few dedicated shipping and insurance journalists who cultivated relationships with the clubs and their people. The clubs in turn slowly began to realise the media could often be a help explaining the progress being made on a casualty and generally enlightening observers on how the industry was coping.

The club managers are now at the forefront of promoting transparency and openness in terms of explaining what is happening when things go wrong on board a ship. Of course, this is partly due to the evolving nature of liability regimes in many parts of the world. But it is also the result of a new generation of executives within club managers who do not see the industry as a private, old boys’ club.

Even the most conservative IG club members and managers have accepted that communicating their work and their role in a casualty is an integral part of their business. We can see this trend intensifying as the more progressive managers are using social media to get their messages across.

For operators who do not have the resources to build in-house communications teams, the club or its lawyers / correspondents will advise outside specialists to help defend reputation in a catastrophe situation.

That is why Navigate Response has good relationships with all the IG clubs and regularly works with them, raising awareness at their seminars as well as working with them to provide in-house training for owners aiming to professionalise their communications when an issue with a vessel crops up.

 

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Edward Ion

Managing Director
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